Letting your photography tell a story

31st January 2020

Research the sequences of Duane Michals online.


OCA Foundations in Photography Course Folder pg122

I have written about Michals for my blog on the 21st November 2019 and you will find the research under the heading, Research point – Sequence: Muybridge, Michals, Arnatt, Hilliard and Ruscha, here.

I have just researched the above website address given to us by the Course Folder and I am now researching photography as a storytelling tool.

DC MOORE GALLERY below are some of Michals series taken from this website.

Death comes to the old lady, 1969

The above works all tell a story and this is enhanced by the works titles which lead us on a specific journey with the visual information. I actually really like how the composition of the images are laid out in the top section ‘Death Comes to the old lady, 1969’ because it reminds me looking on a filmstrip and deciphering the images in a sequence.

01st February 2020

Because I have already looked into sequencing by Duane Michals, I am going to research the art of photography and storytelling a little further.

Giving your photo a title or description is often a chance to give the viewer context. You can guide them towards the interpretation or meaning of the photo. You can also just flat out tell them what the photo is about, leaving little to the imagination. But how can you do this within the photo itself? Is there an advantage to one method or the other? That’s what we’re discussing today. Examples Shown in This Episode Dominykas Jasinauskas: https://www.instagram.com/dom.jas Immediate Family by Sally Mann: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1597112542/… Here for the Ride by Andre Wagner: https://andredwagner.com/herefortheride Family by Chris Verene: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1931885796/…

Matt Day youtube.com

Below: Zines = see notes, these images correspond with page 2 of the notes and are stills taken from the above YouTube video.

Below: Immediate Family, Sally Mann = see notes pgs 4-5, stills are taken from above youTube video.

Google search for Immediate Family, Sally Mann

The reason, I suppose, that this book is controversial is that it shows Mann’s three children, Emmett, Jessie and Virginia. The only thing I can see that would label these images as controversial is that she is opening up their lives for all to see, a bit like pimping them out to society. Shouldn’t your children’s lives be private?

First published in 1992, Immediate Family has been lauded by critics as one of the great photography books of our time, and among the most influential. Taken against the Arcadian backdrop of her woodland summer home in Virginia, Sally Mann’s extraordinary, intimate photographs of her children reveal truths that embody the individuality of her own family yet ultimately take on a universal quality. With sublime dignity, acute wit, and feral grace, Mann’s pictures explore the eternal struggle between the child’s simultaneous dependence and quest for autonomy—the holding on and the breaking away. This is the stuff of which Greek dramas are made: impatience, terror, self-discovery, self-doubt, pain, vulnerability, role-playing, and a sense of immortality, all of which converge in these astonishing photographs. This reissue of Immediate Family is printed using new scans and separations from Mann’s original prints, which were taken with an 8-by-10-inch view camera, rendering them with a freshness and sumptuousness true to the original edition.

Aperture aperture.org
Image taken from Aperture website aperture.org

The images are very detailed showing the children’s special and not so special times, very romantically portrayed in parts of the book and creative within the other. The images do not really touch me, I just see well composed children’s photographs, although I am finding it interesting to be nosey looking at what is happening in each image. Therefore perhaps Mann has drawn me in because although the subject of children bores me the narratives within the work have caught my eye.

Below: Here For The Ride, Andre Wagner = see notes pgs 5-7, stills are taken from above youTube video.

I love this book, shame there is not a way of buying a copy, so Google searched will just have to do. Apparently it is reminiscent of ‘Subway’ by Bruce Davidson.

There is some context at the front of the book and an index at the back telling the viewer information on the photographs and which page they can be found on. The actual pages with the photographs have no text on them so it is up to the viewer to build their own narrative. For me, I suppose the images appear my type of exotic, how America subways are portrayed in TV series and film. This means that some of the narrative I have gained is because of my preconceptions from fictional images and stories from the TV.

Looking at the images more closely, which includes in this work, the foreground, mid ground and background proves very interesting because of the wealth of information on the page. We have body language, facial expressions of people, the setting and the lighting all pointing the viewer into a narrative story.

Therefore the narrative really can be hidden in the details which give a far more complexed story than that which is gained at first glance.

Below: Family by Chris Verene = see notes pgs 7-9, stills are taken from above youTube video.

The set of images (above) that I have named ‘from wedding day to new boyfriend,’ begins with a wedding – loosing their jobs – day of the divorce – new house for the ex husband – new boyfriend for the ex wife. I have placed the series in the order they appear in the book and you can see how the images are sequenced and alternated on each subsequent page helping the viewer to see how the family life and circumastances have changed over time.

This book gives a lot of context to the viewer, each image has captions on top and below the image in a handwriting type which tell the viewers snippets of the events that are happening. At the back of the book is also information on the photography project, Verene states that he “… makes pictures of stories that anyone can understand these are natural images, not posed by the photograph but sometimes those in the photographs pose themselves emphasising what they are… I am present in the photos and my handwriting on them this is how I make my documentative photography.”

I believe that as a story teller we need to define how we are wanting the viewers to get the narrative from the images. The first way would be to carefully pre-plan the content and set a scene within the images. For this the image content would give clues to the viewers, content such as time of day, props, subject matter, and facial and body language. The second way to give a narrative would be to include text about the images somewhere which would feed the information directly to the viewer which leaves little imagination and working out of story lines.

I actually like the use of text. I also like how, when it is completed well, text adds an extra dimension to the overall visual aesthetic of the work.

One thought on “Letting your photography tell a story

Add yours

  1. I just love the work of Duane Michals, really thought provoking and a sense of humour in much of the work. What a great idea to research the art of storytelling through images before tackling the third assignment. A really interesting read.


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